Sunday, 3 February 2013

Trafficking and the Baby Farms…

Just the other day a picture was posted by Women’s Rights News saying that the United Nations statistics reveal that 10 children a day are trafficked in Nigeria.  That’s Nigeria ALONE! Can you imagine how many more there are in other countries like Cambodia, Thailand and other nations where millions are impoverished?
What is utterly abhorring are stories of babies actually being “bred” so they can be sold as soon as they are born. The David Smith story about a Nigerian “baby farm” raided last June 2011 is not new. Nigeria has been identified for these “baby farms” that have become quite profitable for the “professional” criminals. “Professional” because these places are run by licensed doctors or medical practitioners who use their professional skills to “breed” babies for sale to the highest bidder.     
I went back to an old article I wrote on “baby farms” thinking it may have been the same one mentioned. It wasn’t. The story I wrote happened in 2008 but it was really no different from the July 2011 story…only the cost of the babies in 2008 was less than it was in the June 2011 raid. The pregnant mothers-to-be were kept in the so-called clinics or hospitals until they gave birth. Some had unwanted pregnancies and went to these places hoping to get an abortion but ended up being detained there against their will until they gave birth. In 2008, the mothers were paid $170 and the babies were sold from $2,500 to $3,800. Today the mothers are paid almost the same as in 2008 but the babies now cost as much as $6,400 each when sold. Lucrative? Ohhhh yes.
What is even more repulsive is that some of these girls are also molested and abused while in these clinics or hospitals. Stories of men “hired” to impregnate women in such places were also reported by the victims themselves.  Some of them who had given birth and paid after their babies were born actually came back or stayed to voluntarily be impregnated again so they can sell their babies. That’s 9 months of free food and lodging for the mother and about $170 once she gives birth. Then what? She goes hungry again when the money runs out…then gets herself impregnated again? It’s such a vicious cycle but it is happening because people are so desperate to survive and there doesn’t seem to be many options open for them.  Worse, there are people who can be so manipulative and can without conscience exploit unassuming young women who may have just approached them for assistance.   
That these manipulative people have no conscience is even putting it mildly. They’re heartless money-hungry criminals who exploit the dire state of poverty these women are in, so they could profit from them. It’s an entirely different kind of human trafficking but trafficking nevertheless. The women are abused, raped, impregnated, many kept against their will until they give birth and paid an insultingly low fee. To say that these women may have also been used as prostitutes even while they were pregnant is not entirely impossible. These operators have total control of them while inside their so-called clinics. Some had even said they were also drugged at times and found out later that the operator had raped them.
The “baby farms” discovered in Enugu, Nigeria in 2008 and in Aba in 2011 also in Nigeria, show that the problem continues to proliferate to this day. But to say that this is happening because millions are impoverished is not entirely accurate. Many of these women are kept in these farms against their will. It exists because there are people who are willing to “feed” these criminals’ thirst for profit.  Where there are no buyers, there would be no business. But there are, and that is so tragic for the victims.  
Trafficking babies isn’t unique to Nigeria. The existence of “baby farms” has of course highlighted the situation there. But trafficking of babies happens everywhere and in many forms. I have watched a documentary where a mother with nine children would get pregnant to sell her baby. She had no qualms letting the reporter know that she had done it several times and would do it again for a fee. Others would kidnap babies to sell them to people willing to buy them.
The human world has become more and more inhuman, uncaring of others, forgetting that profit is temporary and this could all be run out, that respect and compassion for others are essential.  But how can you tell this to criminals? Trafficking is something ordinary to them…part of their business. They are so used to it that no emotions are involved when they “go about their business.”
There are several NGOs in Nigeria working with local and international authorities to arrest this problem but so much still has to be done. It is undoubtedly difficult for instance to change a people’s belief overnight, on witchcraft rituals where newborn babies are used for sacrifice. There are also childless couples who in desperation resort to adopting newborn babies, maybe not knowing that these babies were “bred” because people like them were willing to buy the babies.
There is a need to be vigilant to curb this problem and it has to be a concerted effort between the citizens and government. That is already being done now. The social and legal structures are already there that can make the change happen. It may take a while, but it can happen. It will happen…  
By Lylin Aguas

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